Branding gone mad?

bum.jpgTwo posts today highlight some examples of superficiality in the world of brands. These stories always remind me of Arabella Weir’s Fast Show alter ego – a female whose sole obsession in all situations is with her appearance and one aspect of it in particular.

In the first it’s good to see Ben McConnell in full rant mode: Up Next: The Accenture State of the State Address. Prompted by the idea of the state of Illinois creating “an official state beverage” as a way of scooping millions of dollars in sponsorship.

Ben thinks this is taking branding to ridiculous lengths, and rightly questions the integrity of government if such thinking continues.

Ben asks

Should this distasteful idea pass, what to expect next?

* “The Chrysler Department of Motor Vehicles”

* “The Accenture State of the State Address”

* “The Deloitte Touche State Comptroller’s Office”

* “The Tap Pharmaceuticals/Illinois House of Representatives”

* “Trojan, the official sponsor of (former) senatorial candidate Jack Ryan”

I’d add that I suspect the integrity of the product suffers too in these sorts of sponsorship. The trouble is, increases in awareness and sales are easily measured; loss of integrity is not so easily tracked but may be more damaging long term.

For instance, when Chase Manhattan sponsor the US Open Tennis, are they simply trying to buy-in some kudos? I can’t help feeling they’d do better to channel their money into being better at what they actually do rather than preening their public image. When Barclays bank sponsors the Premiership Football here in the UK, what are they really saying? Are they bored of being bankers? Don’t they have something to say about banking that might be more useful to me? It’s a bit like gettting a spam phone call where the caller does that unconvincing small talk about “how’s the weather in London?” : we know that there’s an ulterior motive and if we want small talk, we’ve got our friends and neighbours for that.

I’d contrast this atttitude with a brands like Pret a Manger. They seem to find plenty of enthusiasm to just talk about what they do and how they do it. Like there’s some real pride in what they do. I somehow don’t think Pret would fancy being the official sandwich of the London Borough of Islington!

Oh, and here’s a good post on the Tom Peters site by Steve Yastrow:

Accenture claims that their ads featuring Tiger Woods are designed to reinforce their promise to help clients become high-performance busineses. The ads show Tiger Woods in different situations on the golf course with the tagline “Go, Be a Tiger.”

I don’t think the ads make this connection very well, and I think that to most people it must look like a gratuitous exercise in celebrity worship. (I’d bet big bucks that the contract between Tiger Woods and Accenture includes guaranteed opportunities for Accenture executives to meet and hang out with Tiger Woods.)

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